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Eleven census tracts in Forsyth County have been approved as opportunity zones by the U.S. Treasury.

Opportunity zones are economically distressed census tracts qualified to receive private investments through a new vehicle known as opportunity funds.

The tracts are among 47 in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina and 252 statewide selected by the department. The sites were chosen Friday and announced Monday.

The goal is connecting low-income census tracts with investors, and offering tax credits and other tax incentives to get investors involved.

“This is just one more tool in the economic and community development toolbox that can be used to help spur private development and redevelopment in some of the areas in our community that have not seen the growth,” said Derwick Paige, assistant city manager.

“We truly hope that it will be help prime the pump to create new investment and jobs for our residents.”

All but one of the 11 tracts chosen in Forsyth are in the central part of Winston-Salem. Those 10 tracts account for 24,475 residents.

Tract 1 contains the central business district, while tract 2 represents the northern part of the central business district. Tract 8.02 covers the Atkins Community Development Corp.

Whitaker Park, a 1.7-million-square-foot former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. plant, is in tract 14. The building is part of a renovation project being undertaken by Whitaker Park Development Authority Inc.

Smith Reynolds Airport is in tract 16.02, which includes Forsyth Technical Community College’s plans for a $16 million aviation campus.

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is in tracts 7 and 8.01, while Winston-Salem State University also is in tract 7.

The remaining Winston-Salem tracts are: 3.01, 3.02 and 12 (Boston-Thurmond neighborhood); 10 (Peters Creek Parkway business corridor heading into downtown); and 17 (Lakeside Villas multi-family housing development).

“We’re pleased that communities in every corner of our state will be able to utilize this new development tool,” said Napoleon Wallace, deputy state Commerce secretary.

“With the certification of our proposed zones, our local and regional partners can accelerate their work to identify and prepare projects and investments in their areas suitable for equity capital.”

Commerce said “there is no clear timeline for when capital may begin to flow, but earliest estimates point to late 2018 or early 2019.”

The certified list has at least one low-income census tract in every county. Tracts that touch the state’s major industrial site development areas and hurricane-impact areas are included.

The tracts combined contain: more than 1.1 million North Carolinians, or about 10 percent of the state’s population; nearly 45,000 families with children in poverty; more than 50,000 business establishments; and more than $580 million already invested in these areas, from both public and private sources, since 2013.

The program was created by Congress as part of the 2017 tax reform deal as a new tax-incentive designed to drive long-term capital to distressed communities.

The legislation creates a tax break for qualified investors who wish to re-invest unrealized capital gains, avoiding standard capital gain tax obligations.

The program authorized each state to designate up to 25 percent of its total low-income census tracts as qualified opportunity zones.

Low-income census tracks are areas where the poverty rate is 20 percent or greater and/or family income is less than 80 percent of the area’s median income.

“In the period after the Great Recession, we saw that millions of Americans were left behind in the recovery due to job growth and economic opportunities being concentrated in select areas of the country,” U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement. “There is nowhere more evident than North Carolina, as the rural and urban divide continues to grow and millions of North Carolinians are left behind.

"The creation of these opportunity zones in the tax reform legislation will incentivize critical investments in these communities in North Carolina and across the country so all Americans have economic opportunities no matter their location.”

There are 12 tracts in Guilford County, along with four in Alamance, three each in Randolph, Rockingham, Surry and Wilkes, two in Davidson and one each in Alleghany, Ashe, Davie, Stokes, Watauga and Yadkin.

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Source: N.C. Commerce Department 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

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